If you post films or pictures of someone else undressed or engaged in any intimate actions without their consent, you risk being charged with a crime. The Pioneer’s Tejal Sinha looks into the psychological and legal aspects of digital sex crime.
Although the internet gives you the opportunity to look up the law to avoid breaking it, there is a lot of illicit conduct made possible by online connectivity. For instance, it only takes a few finger presses to potentially commit an online sex crime without ever intending to do so.
If you post films or pictures of someone else undressed or engaged in any intimate actions without their consent, you risk being charged with a crime. You will be held accountable specifically for the unauthorised release of another’s photographs. Let’s look at an example: When they were dating, she used to email her ex-boyfriend nude photos and films. He then started requesting money from her and threatening to use those photos and videos as blackmail if she refused to comply. The ex has been making requests for a very long time, and if she ever refuses to comply, he threatens to release her naked photos.
Sextortion, blackmail, and revenge porn are examples of situations that fall under the umbrella of sexual exploitation.
Blackmail is the act of coercing someone by threatening to divulge or make public substantially accurate or untrue information about them if specific demands are not met. Blackmail is a legal offence in many countries throughout the world, including Nigeria, and it carries a jail sentence as a punishment for those who commit it.
Revenge porn is another term for the illicit release of sexually graphic pictures or videos of people without their permission. Even though the movies or photographs may have been created or captured with the partner’s knowledge and consent, their release without that partner’s permission is against the law and illegal.
On the other hand, sextortion is a specific type of crime that takes place when a person demands money or sexual favours in exchange for not disclosing their private photos and videos.
It has long been a crime that most criminal justice systems around the world are starting to pay more attention to. The name was created to fit the deed. It is a specific type of sexual exploitation when victims are threatened with having their private photos and films made public if they don’t comply with the blackmailer’s demand, which is typically payment of a certain amount.
So basically, a couple should refrain from recording or sharing their private moments or photos. Popular culture has normalised this behaviour so much that people now feel obligated, thinking it’s a normal part of a relationship. This is how leaks can occur:
Few relationships last forever. Once it sours, your ex can potentially leak your private media.
Unauthorised access: Someone might gain physical access to your phone without your knowledge.
Malicious apps: Apps ask for permission to access your storage, and you often click yes. Imagine what can happen if a malicious app gains access to your photos and videos.
Cloud storage leaks: If your phone is synced with cloud storage, your private media may also be stored there. Though rare, cloud data can leak onto the internet.
Selling your phone: If you sell your phone without properly wiping it, the new owner could potentially use data recovery tools to access your photos.
Phone repair: When you send your phone for repair, there’s a chance that technicians could access your data. The same can happen with a stolen or lost phone.
Insecure Wi-Fi: Unsecured public Wi-Fi networks can be used to hack your phone.
Public charging stations: These can be rigged to access your data.
Phishing: Phishing scams can trick you into giving away access to your phone or cloud storage. One mistake, and your life and reputation are disrupted forever.
Now, before we delve deep into the criminal aspect of it, let’s understand the psychology behind such a crime. To understand this, we connect with Dr. Reeta Sahay, a clinical psychologist and mental health expert who shared, “Looking at the current dating era, many find it pretty normal to share pictures of their personal moments with other people. While many would want to look like they say ‘cool’ in front of their friends, many would also do it out of revenge. There have been cases where, after the relationship ends, the other spouse keeps blackmailing the other, either to get back or for money. This can have a real long-term effect on the other person.”
Now you may wonder if this can put the guilty behind bars. Yes, it definitely can.
Ramesh Pittala Mudiraj, a Telangana High Court advocate, highlighted that, be it a husband-wife or a boyfriend-girlfriend, no one is authorised to share their private photos without the consent of the other partner. “People wonder if they can file a complaint or if any action will be taken on this? Or If it is a criminal offence, There will be stringent punishment. One can directly walk up to the nearest police station to file the complaint, and action will be taken against the person. As per Article 19, if one takes a picture of anyone without their consent, one can lodge a case, and police officials will take action against the same. This is a serious criminal case.”
Laws and punishment
Indian Penal Code Section 354(C): This Section, amended by the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, states that if any man captures or shares the image of women in private space, he will be punished with imprisonment, which should not be less than one year and may extend up to three years, and he will also be liable to a fine. On subsequent conviction, the imprisonment will not be less than three years and may extend up to seven years. You will also be liable for a fine.
Section 500: This section provides for punishment for defamation. The person who defames another is liable to be punished with simple imprisonment for a term that extends to two years, with a fine, or both.
Section 504: This section deals with intentional insults that provoke a breach of trust. The punishment under this section extends to up to two years of imprisonment, a fine, or both.
Section 506: This section provides for punishment for criminal intimidation. Information Technology Act
Section 67: The section deals with punishment for publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form. The punishment for the offence extends to three years, with a fine that extends up to 5 lakh rupees. In cases of subsequent conviction, the punishment can extend up to 5 years and the fine up to 10 lakh rupees.
Section 67A: The Section provides for punishment for publishing or transmitting material containing the sexually explicit act, etc. in electronic form. The punishment for the offence extends to 5 years, with a fine that extends up to 10 lakh rupees. In cases of subsequent conviction, the punishment can extend up to 7 years and the fine up to 10 lakh rupees.
Section 67B: This section provides for punishment for publishing or transmitting material depicting children in the sexually explicit act, etc., in electronic form. The section aims to forbid all publication, distribution, facilitation, and consumption of child pornography in any manner.
Section 66E: The section mentions punishment for violations of privacy. This section forbids capturing, transmitting, and publishing the image of a person without consent when he or she didn’t expect anyone to capture their image.